Here's how I managed a $10k profit on an old Jeep Cherokee

Demand is as strong as ever for the XJ Cherokee.

"You don't know what you got till it's gone,” is a pretty accurate saying for the Jeep Cherokee XJ. It's also the only way I can explain why I was able to sell my 1999 Jeep Cherokee for a (nearly) $10,000 profit.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and even well into the 2000s, the Jeep Cherokee XJ was an ubiquitous sight on American roadways. It seemed like everyone had one, and those that didn't knew at least three people that did. And because Cherokee XJs were well known for their durability and go-anywhere abilities, they were often kept in the family as a winter car or reserved for a teenage driver that needed something as close to a tank as possible. And when an XJ's useful life was finally exhausted (usually more than 200,000 miles later), it was sold to someone looking for a cheap trail rig, and that was the end of that.

As a result, the once bountiful Cherokee XJ is now on the verge of extinction. Well, the worn out ones are still plentiful, but it's becoming harder and harder to find rust free examples with their factory fenders still intact.

That fact combined with a growing nostalgia for vintage SUVs has pushed prices of clean, low mileage XJs up over the last few years. Way up, actually. Prices have become so inflated that I was nearly able to sell my 1999 Jeep Cherokee Limited for its original sticker price.

The accidental flip

I've always been a fan of the XJ Cherokee, but never really considered owning one. That is until I learned that the good ones were nearly all gone.

My quest for a clean XJ went on for several weeks before I found a promising example at an Audi dealership in Texas, of all places. It was listed for $10,000 which is a big number for a 19 year old SUV, but it had the goods to back up that asking price. It was a one-owner example with just 21,000 miles on the clock, and it was also in a highly desirable spec and color combo. It sounded worth the gamble so I bought it sight unseen and had it shipped to my door.

The Cherokee arrived in like-new condition and I was ecstatic to have such a perfect example of the breed in my possession. But my elation faded over the next few days. That's because the Cherokee was in such good shape that I winced every time I sat in its pristine leather seats. And I found myself worrying more about getting a scratch than enjoying the driving experience. And since my insurance company would only give me a $6,000 policy on a vehicle I just paid $10,000, I was terrified that a fender bender could cost me thousands of dollars. So, after only a few months and a couple of hundred miles of ownership, I decided it best to sell.

By that point I was into the Cherokee for about $13,000 after fees, taxes, shipping and a few repairs. That's an even bigger number for a 19 year old SUV, but I was confident there was still room to make a few bucks on my museum-quality XJ. I listed it for sale and hoped for the best.

And the best is exactly what happened. That ravenous demand for clean Cherokee XJs pushed bidding all the way up to $22,000 -- within spitting distance of the car's original $26,000 MSRP -- netting a profit of $9,000.

Unfortunately, the saying, "you don't know what you got till it's gone,” now applies to my bank account since I promptly blew my Cherokee windfall on Volkswagen EuroVan. If only my willpower was as rock solid as the XJ Cherokee.

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